Mental Health Summit Statement on Racism and Mental Health
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and others by police officers, the Mental Health Summit believes that it is important for the mental health community to condemn police misconduct towards people of color and other forms of racism. Racism, in all of its forms, harms the mental health of our state and our country.
- Our health care system, specifically including the mental health care system, has systematically failed to provide adequate services to people of color. The mental health workforce does not reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our state and is often not competent to serve the mental health needs of people of color. People of color are more apt to be misdiagnosed and receive inadequate or inappropriate treatment.
- As the result of discrimination, people of color have fewer financial resources, lower rates of employment and are less apt to have health insurance. As a result, they are less apt to be able to secure the full range of mental health services that are available in the private sector.
- The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates what is wrong with our health care system and our criminal justice system. People of color are disproportionately represented in prisons and jails whether they are denied decent mental health care and other necessary health services. Prisons and jails have become COVID-19 hot spots. African Americans and Latinos are more apt to be diagnosed with and die from COVID-19.
- Our criminal justice system systematically mistreats people of color from arrest through imprisonment. Just as too many people with mental health conditions are arrested, convicted and imprisoned, rather than being provided with appropriate mental health services, too many people of color are denied basic human needs, including health care, and punished rather than helped. Systematic racism also results in the murder of people of color by the police.
- Mistreatment by the police causes not only physical harm but also depression, anxiety and trauma to those who are its direct victims. Importantly, it also creates anxiety, depression and trauma among others who may understandable fear that they are at greater risk of harm just because they are African American, Latino, Native American or Asian American.
- Discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care and other aspects of daily life not only denies people of color basic needs, it causes anxiety, depression and trauma among those who are its direct victims and those who understandably fear that they may become so.
- Fear, anger, mistrust and resentment too often characterize the relationships between people of different races in the United States. This harms the mental health of all of us.
The Mental Health Summit supports the following:
- Comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system to include:
- Reduced reliance on the criminal justice system to solve social and mental health problems and an increased reliance on diversion to treatment and social services. House Bill 5009 and Senate Bill 3449 (which would reduce the use of the police in transporting persons in mental health emergencies) and Senate Bill 1188 (which would divert unfit misdemeanants from the criminal justice system) are examples of legislation which will move us in this direction.
- Improved police training, including more and better training and ongoing support needed needed to respond to people with mental health conditions.
- Improved efforts to identify police officers who themselves need mental health services and ensure that they receive prompt and appropriate care.
- Improved mental health and substance use services in prisons and jails.
- Systems to connect everyone leaving a prison or jail to appropriate housing, social services and comprehensive mental health and substance use services when needed.
- Comprehensive reform of the mental health care system including:
- Creating a diverse behavioral health workforce
- Creating a culturally competent behavioral health workforce
- Ending disparities in the quality and quantity of behavioral health services provided to communities of color
- Providing adequate funding for behavioral health services
- Offering mental health services remotely through both video and audio options designed to meet the individual needs of persons with mental health conditions
- Housing discrimination against people of color increases the likelihood that they will experience negative mental health outcomes. The Summit supports comprehensive efforts to provide safe and affordable housing free from discrimination.
- Employment, including supported employment for those who need it, dramatically improves mental health outcomes. The Summit supports comprehensive efforts to provide meaningful employment free from discrimination.
- Providing better mental health and social services in schools in order to reduce or eliminate the number of police officers stationed there.